Beyond the Game

UW program helps student-athletes chart a course for life after sports.

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UW Athletics/David Stluka

Most student-athletes don’t make it to the pros — or last long once they get there. And the hours devoted to playing a college sport can make it difficult to connect with internships or other experiences that lead to a viable career off the field of play.

During his second year on campus — and his first on the football team — walk-on Badger running back Dare Ogunbowale ’16 joined Beyond the Game. The program, launched in 2011, was designed in partnership with Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, with help from a research grant. Its main focus: improving graduation rates and postcollege outcomes for student- athletes by introducing them to opportunities outside of sports, including seminars and internships.

Beyond the Game also helps student-athletes have a more complete college experience by drawing them out of their “athletic bubble,” since a restricted social life can pose as much of a strain on them as time limitations do, says LaVar Charleston MS’07, PhD’10, a former senior researcher and assistant director for the laboratory that helped design the program.

“Sometimes, their peers can alienate them by having stereotypes about academic ability and why they come to school,” he says. “So based on these experiences that they have — or being ostracized by their peers — sometimes, they want to stay inside that bubble to feel safer.”

From amassing a terrific academic track record to polishing his piano-playing skills, Ogunbowale dedicated much of his UW career to developing an identity outside of athletics. His peers elected him copresident of Beyond the Game, and he worked with faculty members to organize career fairs, networking events, and lectures by working professionals. He also joined We’re Better Than That, a student organization dedicated to eradicating sexual violence, and he ultimately landed an internship at Merrill Lynch during summer 2016 to pursue his interest in finance and wealth management.

At the investment firm, Ogunbowale found that skills he developed through athletics were also assets in the workplace.

“Having the ability to appeal to people and have them trust you is huge in any kind of job-like setting,” Ogunbowale says. “There’s a lot of trust that goes into working out and training with the same people over and over again, and having people rely on you on Saturdays. Being competitive and personable are huge skills that I was able to learn throughout my time playing football.”

After the 2017 NFL draft in April, he signed as an undrafted rookie with the Houston Texans.

“After football’s done, however long that is, I’ve learned some valuable skills and made some really good connections that will be beneficial,” Ogunbowale says. “A student-athlete has so much more to offer than just playing sports, and Wisconsin has allowed us to showcase that to anyone who wants to see it.”

Published in the Fall 2017 issue

Tags: Alumni, Athletics, Badger, Business, football, Student life, Teaching and learning

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